A specialty from Burgundy, oeufs en meurette is a classic French dish of poached eggs atop a slice of garlicky toast, doused in a rich, silky red wine sauce studded with bacon and mushrooms. It’s an incredibly decadent way to transform humble poached eggs.
Meurette is the name of the sauce (also sometimes called sauce Bourguignon, meaning “Burgundy-style”), made from a reduction of Burgundy red wine, beef stock, and butter. This is a very popular sauce in this region of France, served over poached eggs and sometimes even fish or poultry.
The dish might remind you of coq au vin or beef Bourguignon, two more well-known regional classics cooked in wine—but with slow-simmered meat swapped for quick-poached eggs, making it certainly faster and easier to prepare. Burgundy is famed for its red wine, so it’s no surprise that it makes its way into the region’s cuisine, too.
Oeufs en meurette is traditionally enjoyed as a starter for lunch, but it is also fantastic for brunch, if you ask me. You can think of it as a French version of eggs Benedict, made with a hearty red wine sauce in place of Hollandaise.
The recipe feels sophisticated, but actually doesn’t require any fancy or expensive fixings. That being said, choosing your ingredients wisely and executing a few simple cooking techniques well will make an enormous difference.
The base and principal flavor of the sauce meurette is the red wine, so choose wisely. A good medium-bodied, dry and fruity red wine is preferred, such as a pinot noir or gamay, ideally produced in Burgundy. However, for those buying in the United States or Canada, reaching for a more affordable option, such as a shiraz from a sunny region, is perfectly acceptable. The wine doesn’t need to be fancy, but make sure it’s something you would drink.
The recipe starts with half a liter of wine, which is simmered and reduced to about a third of the amount. Reducing the wine concentrates both its flavor and color, so it will become very dark, glossy, and almost soy sauce-like in appearance.
Oeufs en meurette traditionally includes lardons, short and thin strips of cured pork belly, which are very easy to find in France. They are sold pre-sliced and ready to cook.
To make your own, get thick-cut bacon and slice it across the grain into short matchsticks. As a substitute, pancetta sliced into thin sticks works well, too.
Cremini mushrooms are a common choice for this recipe, and the most affordable option. But feel free to play with other varieties, such as meaty chanterelles, delicate morels, or chewy shiitakes.
For most people, the poached eggs are the most intimidating part of this recipe—but I assure you that they shouldn’t be. To ease you through the process, here are a few rules to keep in mind:
- Use the freshest eggs possible. When you crack open a fresh egg, you should notice that the egg white is tightly attached around the yolk. The white will then hold together well in the poaching water and create a nice round shape. Days-old eggs will have ragged, liquidy whites that will disperse in the poaching water.
- Use a deep pot of water. You should have at least four inches of water in your pot, to allow the eggs to be completely submerged, and give them enough room to poach into a round form. If there isn’t enough water, the eggs will poach flat.
- Add a splash of vinegar to the water. This will further assist in keeping the egg white together. It won’t significantly affect the flavor of the eggs, but if you are worried about them having a vinegary taste, you can later pass them under cold water, to stop the cooking process and to rinse off any residual taste.
- Crack each egg into a small ramekin first, then gently slip it into the poaching water. Using a ramekin allows you to check that the egg looks fresh, the yolk isn’t broken, and no shell has broken into the egg. It also makes it easier to transfer the egg into the water in one, swift motion.
- Swirl a whirlpool in the water. Just before adding each egg, stir the water with the back of a wooden spoon to create a swirling whirlpool, then drop the egg in the center. This will further encourage the egg to poach into a round shape as the white wraps around itself.
Traditionally, oeufs en meurette is enjoyed atop a slice of soft bread, such as a French pain de mie or even a buttery brioche, cut in rounds to discard any crust. The idea is to preserve a soft, tender texture throughout each layer of the dish, and to avoid any crunchy, difficult bites.
These days, however, more and more versions embrace large, garlic-rubbed slices of crusty, country-style loaves—which is my personal favorite. Take your pick!
Oeufs en Meurette (Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce)
The plating of oeufs en meurette should be done quickly, as you don’t want any of the dish’s components—the eggs, sauce, or toast—to get cold. However, both the eggs and the meurette sauce can be made in advance.
The poached eggs can be placed in a bowl of ice-cold water and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can then warm them up by lowering them into simmering water with a slotted spoon for 10 to 15 seconds.
The sauce keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, and can be reheated right before being poured onto the plates.
For the Sauce Meurette
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 cup lardons, or thick-cut bacon sliced into 1/3 inch-thick matchsticks
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 3 sprigs dried thyme, stemmed
- 2 cups red wine
- 1/3 cup beef stock
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Eggs
- 4 large eggs, the freshest you can find
- Water, for poaching
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
For the Toast
- 4 large slices country-style bread
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until they’re slightly translucent and the bacon is crisp. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are fork-tender, about 10 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, bring the red wine to a simmer and reduce by a third. Add the beef stock and reduce by a third again. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the sauce into the pan with the mushrooms and stir. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Fill a large pot with at least 4 inches of water, pour in the vinegar, and bring to a gentle simmer. Break each egg into individual bowls or ramekins.
With a wooden spoon, stir the water to create a gentle whirlpool in the center. Immediately and carefully drop an egg in the center of the whirlpool. Cook for 3 minutes, until the white looks set. Carefully lift the egg with a slotted spoon, run it under a gentle stream of cold water, and transfer it onto a kitchen cloth or paper towel. Repeat with the other eggs.
Brush the garlic clove on both sides of each slice of bread, then spread about 1/2 tablespoon of butter on each side. Toast each slice in a large frying pan until crisp and golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.
To serve, place a piece of toast on each plate, distribute the meurette sauce over each piece, and top with a poached egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy immediately.
Audrey Le Goff is a French food writer, photographer, and creator of the food blog, “Pardon Your French,” where she shares recipes and stories from her beloved home country, France. She is the author of the cookbook “Rustic French Cooking Made Easy” (2019). She currently lives in Niagara, Canada. Follow her on Instagram @pardonyourfrench